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Revival – 1 – The only hope for the Church and America.

Revival – 1 – The only hope for the Church and America.

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was one of the most gifted preachers of the twentieth century. In addition to preaching as the minister of Westminster Chapel in London for twenty-five years, he preached extensively in Europe and the United States. In 1959, Dr. Lloyd-Jones preached a series of sermons commemorating the one hundredth anniversary of the Welsh Revival of 1859 which had a powerful and profound impact on Wales, England, the United States, and other parts of the world as well. He did so because he saw the appalling condition of the church of his day and the need for revival as exceeding urgent. These sermons eventually became a widely acclaimed book titled Revival.[1]

Dr. Jones saw a profound and perilous difference between the conditions of the church in 1959 England and America than that which existed in one hundred years earlier. The kinds of problems facing the church in 1959 were far deeper and more desperate. The problems in 1859 were not ones of general denial of the Christian truth but of apathy toward Christ and the church. Correction was a matter of awakening and arousing the church from their lethargy. But in 1959, the moral and spiritual landscape had dramatically changed. Dr. Lloyd-Jones saw the modern-day problems as not just apathy but a “complete unawareness, even a denial of the spiritual altogether…the whole notion of the spiritual has gone. The very belief in God has virtually gone.”[2]

It has been fifty-eight years since Lloyd-Jones preached those sermons at a time when the Christian nations and individual Christians were far more sensitive, agreeable, and desirous of a divine move of the Holy Spirit in their midst, that is, a quickening divine visitation. Now, the church is in far more serious condition than that of Dr. Lloyd-Jones’ day. Many church leaders and their congregants are oblivious to their great spiritual sickness and disastrous departures from biblical truth, doctrines, and holy lifestyles. The church has become acclimatized to the rising tide of secularism and humanism that has inundated the Western world.

As the spirit of the world invaded the church over the last six decades, there has been a corresponding displacement of the irreplaceable power and presence of the Holy Spirit within the church. Without the centrality of the Holy Spirit, the efforts, actions, and programs of the church are merely be a form of godliness but which denies the power thereof. Rev. Pierre Bynum has stated that because of the rebellion of the church, America is ripe for destruction.

The Evangelical Movement in this country is characterized by an arrogance that is almost beyond belief. The neglect of prayer, the involvement in Philistine methodology, the moral evils, the doctrinal corruptions that characterize the Movement are sufficient to cause the people of Sodom to wonder at God’s justice in destroying their city while sparing the United States.[3]

Conditions that demand revival of the church

Revival is the only event that can avert spiritual disaster for the church and turn a nation back to God. But God always sends men and women to warn of these approaching disasters. These modern-day watchmen on the wall are godly leaders and faithful intercessors who recognize the signs of the times and are calling attention to the woeful condition of both the church and the nation. They have sounded the alarm since the end of World War II to the present day. Here we quote just a few of these watchmen and their warnings that span the last seven decades.

…without revival in the church there is really no hope for the Western world at all.[4] [J. I. Packer summarizing the thrust of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones in his series of sermons in 1959 marking the 100th anniversary of the Welsh revival.]

Jesus Christ has today almost no authority at all among the groups that call themselves by His name. By these I mean not the Roman Catholics nor the liberals, nor the various quasi-Christian cults. I do mean Protestant churches generally, and I include those that protest the loudest that they are in spiritual descent from our Lord and His apostles, namely the evangelicals.[5] [A. W. Tozer, The Waning Authority of Christ in the Churches, 1963.]

However much opinions of the realities involved may differ, no one can deny that there is widespread discussion of the decline of Western culture.[6] [Richard M. Weaver, Visions of Order – The Cultural Crisis of Our Time, 1964.]

Imperceptibly, through decades of gradual erosion, the meaning of life in the West has ceased to be seen as anything more lofty than the “pursuit of happiness… the West’s own historical evolution has been such that today it too is experiencing a drying up of religious consciousness…Here again we witness the single outcome of a worldwide process, with East and West yielding the same results, and once again for the same reason: Men have forgotten God.[7] [Nobel laureate, Orthodox Christian author, and Russian dissident Alexandr Solzhenitsyn in his address, given when he received the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion in May of 1983, in which he explained the process of alienation of the people of God and traditional Christian morality and beliefs through secularism and humanism.]

Truth demands confrontation. It must be loving confrontation, but there must be confrontation nevertheless…Here is the great evangelical disaster—the failure of the evangelical world to stand for truth as truth. There is only one word for this—namely accommodation: the evangelical church has accommodated to the world spirit of the age.[8] [Francis A. Schaeffer, The Great Evangelical Disaster, 1984.] [emphasis in original]

Conformity to the spirit of the times appears to characterize the clergy as well as the laity…religion is declining because those identified with it do not actually believe in it…It is difficult to say that religion even exists if it keeps giving up its tenets to appease its members and critics…The first question, then, is why belief evaporated, why the West has become so rapidly secularized.[9] [Robert H. Bork, Slouching Toward Gomorrah, 1996.]

After two hundred years of earnest dedication to reinventing the faith and the church and to being more relevant in the world, we are confronted by an embarrassing fact: Never have Christians pursued relevance more strenuously; never have Christians been more irrelevant.[10] [Os Guinness, Prophetic Untimeliness, 2003.]

Western civilization is over. Everybody knows it…Following centuries of pride, schism, compromise, synthesis with humanism, and general hard-heartedness, God may be withdrawing His grace from the Western nations—at least for the time being. Nevertheless, there is always mercy for those who seek and those who are humbled before the almighty God. (Romans 11:20).[11] [Kevin Swanson, Apostate – The Men who Destroyed the Christian West, 2013.]

Rebellion, decline, and renewal of God’s people in the Bible

The pattern of sin and falling away from God followed by repentance, revival, and restoration of His people is a recurrent theme in the history of God’s dealings with the Israelites. In the Old Testament there were at least twelve instances of revival,[12] and seven of these cycles are found in the first sixteen chapters of Judges. Preceding each of these revivals there were at least four common elements present:

• A spiritual decline among God’s people.
• A righteous judgement from God – While varying from revival to revival, God’s judgement led to prayer, brokenness, repentance, and a desperate seeking of God’s face. Sometimes God’s judgement led to the deaths of the wicked.
• The raising up of an immensely burdened leader or leaders who had a heavy burden of the moral and spiritual needs of God’s people and the nation.
• Extraordinary actions were taken, the most common of which was a call for a Solemn Assembly of the people who humbled themselves, sought the Lord, wept, fasted, mourned, prayed, confessed and repented of their individual and national sins, and who committed themselves to leading a Godly life and separation from all unrighteousness of the nations.[13]

Revival – The only hope for the church and America

Revivals have been the sustaining lifeblood of the Protestant evangelical churches since they emerged just prior to and during America’s First Great Awakening in the early 1700s. The quest for revival was discarded by the liberal churches more than one hundred years ago, and revival most certainly was never sought after or tolerated in the Roman Catholic Church. Nevertheless, revivals remained the central source of renewal and power of evangelical churches through the early 1960s and for some churches into the 1980s.

Beginning in the 1960s, the leadership in evangelical churches, seminaries, and other Christian organizations increasingly appear to have ignored the lessons of the Israelites’ rebellion, decline, and renewal in the Old Testament and have relegated revival to the dusty and forgotten shelves of church history. America’s pulpits became noticeably silent on matters of revival, and revivals virtually disappeared from the evangelical landscape along with the itinerant evangelists that held one and two-week revival meetings (longer if the Holy Spirit was moving upon the hearts and lives of those attending). As a result most of the laity under the age of fifty have little remembrance of revival meetings or have never experienced an extraordinary powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit in a local church.

Revival – Two opinions

One of the reasons for the absence of revivals is that they are controversial. Revivals are a supernatural work of the Spirit of God, and this supernatural aspect instills fear in the hearts of many Christians. Some claim revivals are “of the devil” or a form of mass hysteria. Others fear the supernatural manifestations of revival. Still others are opposed to revivals because they fear loss of control over the church life. That occurs because revivals are a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit and cannot be controlled or directed by men. Revivals always challenge the status quo, upset the comfortable forms of godliness, and shine the light of God’s Word into the dark corners of the church where the spirit of the world often resides.

Others dismiss talk of revival and revival meetings as not being relevant to the needs of the church or compatible with the popular methods and techniques of doing church in these modern times. For most American evangelical pastors, revival is passé, out-of-date, archaic, unfashionable, obsolete, and an inconvenience in our fast-paced modern lives. It would be safe to say that the vast majority of evangelical churches haven’t sought revival or held a revival meeting in a quarter of a century. Revivals have been replaced by new ways of doing church. We are told that the modern Christian does not have the patience, time, or inclination to attend revival meetings. As previously stated, the subject of revival is missing from the preaching of most evangelical pastors in America. The focus has switched from revival to building the church through Church Growth methods and techniques that are seeker-friendly.

But there is another group. They are the contrite and lowly in spirit. It is to them that God said, “I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.” [Isaiah 57:15. NIV] [emphasis added] These Christians are in great sorrow as a result of the vapid fare that now passes for Christianity in many churches. They are distraught by the casualness and carelessness with which many Christians approach church life and the things of God. They are crushed by the reality of a spiritually bankrupted nation that is being sucked into the vortex of a moral cesspool that threatens to engulf their children, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. They are the spiritually hungry and know that God has more for them than what they are receiving from the great majority of evangelical churches today. They want more than just programs, entertainment, activities, and playing church. They hunger for more of God—a life-changing, soul-drenching deluge of the manifest presence of God. What they seek is God’s promise of revival!
______

The purpose of this book is to call the leadership of America’s evangelical churches to teach, preach, and seek revival in their churches. Lay men and women are called to pray unceasingly for a divine manifestation of God’s presence in their midst. Given the significant ignorance of revivals and matters pertaining thereto among both pastors and the laity, many aspects of revival will be examined and considered in this book. These include:

• Need for revival
• History of revivals and awakenings since the early 1700s
• Meaning of revival
• Purposes of revival
• Hindrances to revival
• Characteristics and happenings in revival
• Prerequisites for revival
• Seeking revival

______

It has been over one hundred years since the last significant revival of the American evangelical church followed by a general moral and spiritual awakening in America. The condition of the Western church is vastly more spiritually barren and destitute than any time since immediately before the Reformation. As a consequence, a large part of the American evangelical church is sick, and without a course correction very soon it may be a sickness unto death. The symptoms are many—powerlessness, apathy, worldliness, biblical ignorance, false teachers, false doctrine, rebellion, and apostasy to name just a few. Yet, the majority of its pastors and congregations are oblivious to their spiritual condition and imminent peril.

America’s only hope is the church, and the only hope for the church is revival. But before revival will come, the church must recognize its spiritual barrenness, its great need of revival, and the necessary prerequisites that make revival possible.

Larry G. Johnson

Sources:

[1] Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Revival, (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1987), pp. iv-v.
[2] Ibid., p. 13.
[3] Rev. Pierre Bynum, Family Research Council Prayer Team, April 19, 2017.
http://www.frc.org/prayerteam/prayer-targets-rev-ro-roberts-the-solemn-assembly-national-day-of-prayer-may-4-2017 (accessed April 20, 2017).
[4] Lloyd-Jones, Revival, p. vi.
[5] A. W. Tozer. The Waning Authority of Christ in the Churches, (Nyack, New York: Christian and Missionary Alliance, 1963), pp. 4-5.
[6] Richard M. Weaver, Visions of Order – The Cultural Crisis of Our Time, (Wilmington, Delaware: Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 1964), p. 3.
[7] Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, “Men have forgotten God” – The Templeton Address, May 1983, The Voice Crying in the Wilderness, July 5, 2011. http://orthodoxnet.com/blog/2011/07/men-have-forgotten-god-alexander-solzhenitsyn/ (accessed October 13, 2017).
[8] Francis A. Schaeffer, The Great Evangelical Disaster, (Arcadia, California: Focus on the Family, 1984), p. 27.
[9] Robert H. Bork,Slouching Towards Gomorrah, (New York: Regan Books, 1996), pp. 280-281.
[10] Os Guinness, Prophetic Untimeliness, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2003), p. 12.
[11] Kevin Swanson, Apostate – The Men who Destroyed the Christian West, (Parker, Colorado: Generations with Vision, 2013), pp. 13, 19.
[12] Bynum, Family Research Council Prayer Team, April 19, 2017.
[13] Ibid.

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